Annex 2: Country Studies


Key Points  
 Screens and Admissions
No. of screens
No. of screens
- 3%
- 9%
Number of screens
Number of seats ('000)
Number of admissions per seat
Total number of admissions (millions)
Number of admissions per head of population
* unweighted average
Concentration in Exhibition
Market share of Top 3 players
Market share of Top 4 players
Market share of independents responsible for own programming*
* not including those theatres which have programming agreements with the four main players
The Netherlands exhibition industry is concentrated around four main players. These networks, MGM, Jogchem's, Wolff and Minerva, between them own 42% of installed screens, and they also programme a number of independent cinemas (about 18% of total screens). The four main players control then 60% of the screens and 73% of admissions to theatres.
In comparison to the European average, this means that the Dutch exhibition sector is relatively concentrated, dominated by an oligopoly of four networks which benefit from good seat occupancy rates in relation to the independent cinemas who select their own programmes, for their share of admissions (73%) is clearly superior to their proportion of installed sites.
Jogchem's, Wolff and Minerva are national networks generally family-owned.
The market leader is, however, MGM, which is controlled by foreign interests. The presence of a foreign market leader in the Dutch market is not new, because the cinemas which MGM now controls were previously under the direction of the Cannon group, which had acquired a chain from Rank and had bought two competing circuits.
The power-base of the MGM network is its near monopoly situation in the big towns in the west of the Netherlands; Amsterdam, Rotterdam and the Hague, where they face very little competition. Despite that advantageous position and their long-term presence in the market, the MGM group, which has changed its management several times in recent years, is still an outsider in relation to the other circuits. Its medium term strategy particularly is uncertain: it consists of a policy of ceding some of its present cinemas, in order to invest in the creation of larger multi-screen complexes, and this is in spite of many experts' reservations about the viability of such complexes in the Netherlands (see below).
Access by Films to Screens
There are no distributors in the Netherlands with interests in exhibition neither are exhibitors engaged in distribution activities. The Netherlands does not boast a single example of vertical integration, outside the art-house and experimental market. Vertical integration only exists in the art-house and experimental sector, but as it affects less than 1% of admissions, it can therefore be considered as marginal.
From the point of view of access of films to cinemas, it is important to look at exclusivity agreements between exhibitors and distributors. These agreements were the rule in the Netherlands until January 1993. Since that date, contracts between distributors and exhibitors no longer include a systematic exclusivity clause; these are now negotiated individually and by the main circuits on a national level.
However, certain potential conflict situations arise when considering distribution in a local market of a film with major commercial potential: it seems that, in such cases, the circuits have sufficient clout to achieve access which, if not exclusive, is at least preferential for this type of film. In cases of conflict, arbitration is carried out by the federation's inter-industry committees whose findings are legally binding. However, exhibitors who feel that they are the victims of anti-competitive practices technically can also take a complaint to the Ministry of Economic Affairs.
Ticket Prices and Exhibitors' Shares
EU average*
Average ticket price incl. taxes (ECUs)
Average rental as a % of box office net of tax
Exhibitor's average share (%)
Exhibitor's share of ticket price (ECU)
Exhibitor's average share per screen (000 ECUs)
* weighted average
The average ticket price in the Netherlands is very high by European standards. This pricing policy, combined with average rentals particularly favourable to exhibitors (39% of gross takings on average) explains why, despite a low number of visits per inhabitant per year (0.91 compared with the European average of 1.61), the average Dutch exhibitor experiences a good average rate of return per theatre. It is likely that the formalisation of commercial practices which the federation has brought about, which tended until a few years ago, to protect the interests of exhibitors against the occurrence of anti-competitive practices by distributors or other operators, has helped to guarantee cinemas' healthy position. But this formalisation is a thing of the past, except when it concerns the regulation of outlets and the competition between commercial and municipal cinemas.
Rentals are proportional subject to a minimum amount, and the Federation fixes the minimum and maximum rentals which can be applied (actually between 27.5% and 60% of net takings).
The negotiation of conditions of exhibition, which is carried out at national level, is very influenced by the corporate nature of the organisation of the sector.
Naturally, the power of the circuits, who possess the most important cinemas, determines the timing of their access to the most profitable films, but it is still the case that collective negotiation of minimum and maximum rentals, release windows, and the establishment of standards concerning exhibition contracts which is carried out by the industry itself, gives to the exhibitors in the Netherlands some protection in their relationships with distributors. This situation also bears witness to a taking of initiative by the industry, compared with other European countries like France, where the State has a more interventionist policy, or even the countries in southern Europe, where almost all transactions are made on an individual basis, with the only limitation being the law of supply and demand, or the interests of the big integrated companies.
Cinemas Provision
Number of screens per 100,000 population
Number of seats per screen
% large screens
% Dolby
% multiplexes (7+ screens)
* weighted average
The average quality of Dutch cinemas is good. Theatres are generally characterised by screens and capacity in numbers of seats only slightly below the European average, but by a high level of technical quality (lots of stereo installations).
Up to the present, there are no multiplexes in the Netherlands with more than 8 screens, as there are in its neighbour, Belgium. Amongst the complexes which are currently running, there are only two cinemas with 7 screens each, and one cinema with 6 screens.
The nature of numbers of admissions in the Netherlands, particularly in terms of geographical distribution - which is less concentrated around one or two large urban centres than admissions in the majority of European countries studied - make "big" multi-screen complexes less likely to be viable, as their economics require an enormous concentration of admissions in a small number of urban centres.
MGM proposes to create some multiplexes, although their exact plans are not known. The risks, for the other circuits, of seeing a player associated with an integrated US major restructuring the exhibition market around multiplexes with more than 8 screens like in the United Kingdom or in Belgium, are real, but its ascendancy is not assured in the Netherlands: the even spread of cinemas throughout the country and the geographical fragmentation of admissions which are found here militate in favour of small complexes, of the order of only 6 to 8 screens at the centre of the big cities and one or two cities dominated by universities. However, because of the existing monopoly in especially Amsterdam, it may be necessary to establish a multiplex of a somewhat bigger size. In 1995 a multiplex with 8 screens will be opened by Warners in the Hague and probably more will follow.
US films' market share
European films' market share 

  - of which national films

Art-house & experimental: screens as % of all screens (commercial and municipal)
Art-house & experimental: share of admissions
* weighted average

As in the majority of European countries, it is difficult to distinguish in the Netherlands definite differences in exhibitors' programming policy. Cinema programming is defined, in practice by the distributors.
At the national level, one notes that the number of visits is concentrated on an increasingly limited number of films: on one hand, the number of films distributed has decreased rapidly in the course of the past ten years (500 films per year in the 1950s to only about 200 films per year nowadays), on the other hand, the proportion of admissions to the 20 leading films has substantially increased (from 36% in 1980 to 70%).
Cinema programming techniques have consequently changed. The national programming of cinemas in the Netherlands is characterised by a plan to release a large number of prints, with simultaneous distribution of the high potential films in a large number of geographical centres. "Blockbusters" might be programmed for 20% of the screens in the country at the same time, spread out throughout the country. The delays in release between the capital and the rest of the country are limited.
This is a positive point for the whole industry, but it does not lessen the importance of stating that this aspect of programming strategy makes it all the more crucial that the independents have speedy access to films with popular appeal, in order to benefit from the national advertising which accompanies their release. There is hardly a local market where a circuit competes with independents. The competition between circuits and independents occurs at the national level, for example, in relation to obtaining prints of major releases.
Another phenomenon which appertains to this "American" release model is that the average duration of exhibition of films is falling, so that it is nowadays only of the order of two or three months throughout the whole country.
The art-house and experimental sector in the Netherlands benefits from a very specific economy.
The art-house and experimental cinemas are divided into three categories: commercial art-house and experimental theatres; and two categories of municipal art-house and experimental theatres, A and B. Amongst these cinemas, only the commercial ones and those falling into category A meet the selection criteria of the CICAE, and it is those criteria which we have chosen to define the field of this sector in the statistics given below. It therefore includes 48 theatres, of which 27 are municipal.
As we will see in the next chapter, the non-commercial art-house and experimental cinemas are subsidised by local government. They are also characterised by a particular operating method when it comes to programming. As for the commercial sector, the practices relating to supply of films to cinemas are defined by the professional associations. The municipal cinemas do not have access to films which are exclusively granted to the commercial cinema members of the Federation. Commercial distributors are authorised however by the associations to give them films which it considers have little commercial potential (this definition is, by default, the practical definition of the criteria for classifying films as art-house and experimental).
The majority of cinemas which are considered as art-house and experimental by CICAE are subsidised. The Netherlands does not, however, possess a significant number of commercial cinemas orientated towards a "specialist" programming strategy distinct from the "mainstream".
The current results of the art-house and experimental market, already positive as their market share is higher than the European average, can probably still be expected to improve with the recent success of this type of programming.
Role of the Public Authorities
                              - VAT 
                              - Other taxes 
                              - Rights (musical)
- Total/ticket (in ECU)
Financial assistance: 
                              - Total (in ECU Millions)
                    - Per ticket (in ECU)
* unweighted average  
** net receipts   
*** exhibitors pay one-third (0.375%)

The Dutch government concentrates the subsidies which it gives to the cinema sector on national film production. These are disbursed by the "Film Fund", which grants no subsidies whatsoever to cinema exhibition.
The non-commercial art-houses have the feature of being subsidised, not by the central government, but by the town councils on which they are dependent. It is because of this that they are called "subsidised art-house". The amount and the method of distribution of these subsidies is not available, but it is known that the relevant funds are used for the purposes of renovation, or to compensate for operating losses. This method tends to "municipalise" certain cinemas, a phenomenon found in several other European countries, particularly in France.
The operation of the Dutch commercial exhibition sector is therefore exclusively privately funded, without any State subsidies, and with the State only intervening to regulate commercial practices.
The NFC comprises the following members: the Association of Exhibitors, the Association of Distributors, the Association of Producers and the Association of Municipal Cinemas. All exhibitors and commercial distributors are part of this national association.
Under the auspices of the federation, agreements are reached concerning windows and relations between commercial distributors and municipal cinemas. In addition, the federation occasionally intervenes even if the relationships between distributors and exhibitors is governed on a private contractual basis. The federation is the only statistical agency for the Netherlands and is also responsible for the collection and dissemination of information supplied by its members. The federation operates an arbitration office as mentioned above.
Under the supervision of the federation, levies are collected for the purpose of marketing, market research and transport of prints, and the federation also collects royalties on sound recordings and compositions. The Exhibitors Association also manages the setting of salary scales, and the training of cinema technicians.